Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Attendance Court

I spent the afternoon at an East Harlem middle school sitting in on one of our newest experiments: an attendance court designed to combat truancy.   I left feeling enormously proud. Susanna, with help from Jackie, Dory, Chris, Judge Koretz and others, has managed to get a complicated undertaking up and running in remarkable time.  The school administrators that I talked with clearly view the attendance court as a valuable tool in creating a productive learning environment in the school.   And if the half dozen cases I witnessed are any indication, the program seems to be making an impact on participants' attendance.  The challenge these cases present is an altogether unsurprising one: truancy is just the tip of the iceberg in many of the families I saw today.  Domestic violence, divorce, mental illness, joblessness are just a few of the problems that these kids and their parents are facing.   While I'm not sure we (or anybody else) has the answer to these kinds of issues, I do feel like we have just begin to explore the potential of the attendance court model to make a difference in students' lives.  

Monday, May 12, 2008

Brooklyn Mental Health Court on TV

Channel 7 did a story on the Brooklyn Mental Health Court. Video can be found here.

Mayor's Press Conference

I spent the morning today at City Hall for a press conference announcing a new set of juvenile justice reforms. I was there because one of the reforms that Mayor Bloomberg highlighted was the City's new alternative-to-detention program, with a special focus on our program in Queens. We supplied four former participants from QUEST, all of whom had a life-transforming experience in our after-school program. The kids did great, even with dozens of cameras and microphones in their faces.

Unfortunately, much of the press coverage emphasized a separate initiative to hold weekend arraignments in criminal court for young people charged with delinquency, but that's life.

Here is the press release from the Mayor's Office.

Here is the story on NY1.

Here is the story from AP/1010 WINS.

Here is the story from Metro.

Here is the CityRoom blog from New York Times.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Centre for Court Innovation for the UK?

Yesterday's London Times has a story about a recent report from the Young Foundation, which among other things, calls for the creation of a Centre for Court Innovation modeled after us.   Here's the article.  

Alternatives to Detention

I spent the better part of this morning at the Vera Institute of Justice attending a meeting about New York City's new alternative to detention program for young people in Family Court on delinquency charges.  Vera is helping to coordinate the project, which, when it is fully implemented, will include after-school/monitoring programs in each borough.  

Our role has been to plan and implement the Queens program (QUEST) and to help provide the technology that all of the programs will ultimately use.  The early results (less than a year into the project) have been encouraging: a reduction in the use of detention by Family Court judges (and when detention is being used, it is targeted more directly to high-risk juveniles) and low rates of re-arrests among participating young people.   

More globally, the whole enterprise feels like the best kind of public policy-making: the strategic deployment of limited resources, the creation of a multi-faceted partnership among various government agencies (the Mayor's Office, Family Court, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Probation, Corp. Counsel, etc) and non-profits (us, Vera, CASES and others), and the rigorous use of data to both analyze the problem and assess the effectiveness of the attempted solution.  I left feeling proud to be a part of it. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Aubrey has written a great op-ed for Newsday about the foreclosure crisis in New York and how courts might be part of the solution. It can be found by clicking here.